Whispering Ranch Diary


This is a summary of the notes and information that I have been including for the past five years or so on the maps that I prepared and made available "for Public Use" in the information boxes at the two signs I have in Whispering Ranch. One is located by the mailboxes at 299th Avenue and Patton Road, and the other is at 347th Avenue and Carefree Highway, so depending on which way you come in, there are maps and current information near each entrance. Originally, I was just putting out maps with the listings of properties for sale, but I broadened the scope to give more people an idea of what was happening in the market, and how market changes were affecting Buyers and Sellers in the area.

Since there is more space available here on this site than on the maps, I may go into more detail or more fully explain events. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to send me e-mail to me by clicking here.





Newsletters - 2010



December 11, 2010

Business News . . .

I'm still working with a couple of Sellers who are "under water" on their parcels and trying to get Lenders to work with them and keep some payments coming in by doing a loan modification, but the Lenders are having nothing to do with it. Their attitude is "Pay up or we'll foreclose and come after you for the deficiency" which is causing a lot of owners to just stop paying, stop trying and stop caring. Since there are so many properties that were bought in the last few years that were financed, the owners are either letting the properties go back to institutional Lenders as foreclosures or giving them back to private Lenders with a Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure. These parcels are the ones that are coming on line at bargain prices and setting these new lows for sales that we will all have to live with for the near future. Once this market starts to turn there will be a significant number of properties coming on the market, but they will be priced above the current sales pricing. So if you are thinking of "getting into the game", now is the time to do it.

Sales Activity . . .

We have been sitting in the range of 50 to 60 properties actively on the market for about a year now. Low end pricing is still dropping, but most sellers are aware of property values and are holding out for higher prices, which will start happening in the future. There was only one reported sale in November. A parcel on the west side of the Ranch started out for sale at $60,000 in October of 2007. As time went on, the price slowly dropped - again and again - until it finally was at $15,000. The property sold for $2,500. I think we can safely say that we are at the bottom now. I'm still working with a few parties who are interested in purchasing property in Whispering Ranch, but as of this date, there have been no offers put on the table.

Bureaucracy on the Move . . .

I have been researching he possibility of using a parcel here and there in Whispering Ranch as a small "solar farm" of photovoltaic panels tied to the grid, producing electrical energy into the grid during daylight hours. What I'm finding is that Maricopa County Planning and Zoning only allows 5% lot coverage under current zoning. That makes this idea economically unfeasible. More lot coverage (more solar panels) would require re-zoning the parcel, adding more costs. A parcel would have to be in an area where there is already an electrical connection - if not, you have to pay the power company to bring lines in to your property - this again drives up the expense of this process. Then you need to have a power purchase agreement with the power company. They want to sell electricity at 7¢ per kilowatt-hour but only pay you 3¢ per kilowatt-hour for what you generate. (These are rough numbers, but you get the idea.) Add to this that there are additional "Interconnect" fees that the power company charges you to hook up to their lines to feed power into the grid. Anyone looking at this as a business idea is faced with huge investment costs up front and a return on investment that is miniscule. So until the bureaucrats see that this is a valid business concept which they should encourage by cooperating with small investors it won't happen. Too many roadblocks. Needless to say, this is one idea that has not been embraced by either County Officials or by Arizona Public Service. But I think it is one trend that will start to show more momentum in the future as energy costs continue to increase.

What's Next . . .

What I am doing now is trying to see why, if the Arizona Corporation Commission has mandated that 15% of the electricity generated in the future is from renewable sources, i.e. solar, wind, etc., they are reticent to make any allowances to the current power purchase agreements, rate tariffs, net metering or interconnection requirements. The power companies hold all the cards to slow any efforts toward small energy generation. I strongly believe that in the future, advances in solar power generation (and other renewable resource methods) will allow our homes and power grid to become more independent and decentralized. The best example of this was the decentralization of computing capability brought about by the advances in computers in the 1980's and 1990's. What's happening now is that the ability to generate usable energy is getting into the hands of the public. If there were a few dozen small "solar farms" in the Whispering Ranch area, the grid would only need to supply power at night. And if there were a few hundred (or thousand) small solar farms in Arizona, the power companies would have lost some of their grip on the energy market. The large power companies are threatened, so they will fight to keep these technologies from becoming mainstream.


November 13, 2010

Business News . . .

Now that the elections are behind us, we will hopefully see some action toward getting this stagnant economy back on track. It’s going to take a little time until these newly elected politicians get into their offices and get some traction, but I hope we will see some positive improvements in the economy. I don’t know how the economists can say the recession ended in 2009, based on what most of us see on Main Street. I don’t fault the administration for trying the things they did, but it just seems they were creating more government positions instead of addressing the employment situation. I hope we see movement toward job creation and increased consumer confidence and less political bickering about who is to blame. I really don’t care who is to blame . . . let’s just learn from the past and move on to the future. If the politicians got the message that they need to listen to their constituents and represent these interests instead of their own political ambitions, we might make some progress. We voted to send a message. Let’s hope they got it.
I have been working with a few prospects looking to buy property in the near future, and I am showing what’s available in the marketplace. They are taking their time and learning about the area before just jumping in. I was working with one Buyer interested in a parcel up in the north end of the Ranch. He went to the County Planning and Development offices to see what difficulty he would have in doing property improvements. There were so many requirements and restrictions thrown in the way of getting anything done that he has just decided to find a land parcel in another area where he won’t run into all these problems. I don’t know if he was asking for too much or if the County Officials were just being too controlling, but this does not bode well for future prospective Buyers. So much for asking for any cooperation from County Officials. Do it their way . . . or suffer the consequences.

Sales Activity . . .

The 3rd Quarter numbers reinforced my feeling that if prices are not at the bottom of the market, then they are pretty close. If we look at just the 5-acre parcels on the market, the average listing price was $9,759 per acre or $48,756 for an average 5-acre parcel. When we look at the sale price of a 5-acre parcel (there were only two reported for the Quarter in the local MLS) one sold at $4K, and one sold at $15K, for an average price per acre of $1,900 or $9,500 for the 5-acre parcel. So there is a large spread between what Sellers are asking and what Buyers are paying. What’s even more revealing is the asking price on larger parcels. There were six larger parcels ranging from 10 to 30 acres with an average asking price of $3,321 per acre. Sales prices on the two that did sell averaged $905 per acre. One 20-acre parcel sold for $8,550 and one 10-acre property sold for $8,500. So again, we are seeing huge differences between asking prices and what Buyers are paying. These numbers don’t reflect foreclosures or Lenders taking back parcel with a Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure, and there have been quite a few of those transactions. My impression is that the sales we are seeing are owners who are selling just to assemble what cash they can. There are plenty of parcels available, but not at the bargain basement prices that investors want. Once the market turns, we will see sales start to take place at prices more in line with owners reasonable expectations.

Bureaucracy on the Move . . .

The current construction that is in progress in Maricopa County is largely a result of ‘stimulus money’ that the Federal Government let loose as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. There are roadways under construction in the west valley (Loop 303) that are being funded with funds from the Arizona Department of Transportation matched by Federal Funds. These infrastructure improvements will help to create more growth as new areas are being opened up for development by these roadway projects. Until the economy turns the corner, development won’t happen despite pent up demand, but at least the groundwork will have been done. None of these projects will have significant impact Whispering Ranch even though the roadway studies for this area have been recommended. A recent newspaper article discussed the possibility of high-speed rail between Las Vegas and Phoenix. This sounds pretty good to create construction jobs, but if the Las Vegas casino’s are looking for Phoenix gamblers to run up there and spend their money, it’s a bad bet. With the Phoenix economy taking one of the biggest hits in this economic downturn – our once booming housing market has plummeted – there’s not much loose money floating around in this area. If Las Vegas is looking for the big money they should build a high-speed rail to Washington D.C. That’s where the big salaries and big spenders reside.

What’s Next . . .

I am still being an irritant to the local bureaucrats: 1.) at the Arizona Corporation Commission trying to get the “1000 Foot Free Zone” that was taken away in 2007 reinstated as a catalyst toward making new construction in Whispering Ranch economically feasible for a property owner interested in building a home, 2.) running ideas past Maricopa County Planning and Development to allow Owners to construct small “Solar Farm” homes and additional areas to feed power back into the grid, 3.) pursuing the possibility of having Maricopa County Department of Transportation start looking at what roadway improvements (grading, drainage and or bridges) can be planned so there is a cohesive plan in place once the economy starts to turn the corner. Who knows what the catalyst might be to jumpstart this area . . . it could be any one of these or a combination of outside factors. We’ll see.


October, 2010

I sent the last newsletter out to all my subscribers at the end of September and will be sending this out as soon as we have held our 'Open Lot' this month. I have been seeing a lot of activity behind the scenes and I am watching closely to see if it's going to have a positive or negative impact on area development. There are a few investors who are looking at parcels but they haven't settled on anything concrete. They would like to be in an area with access to power, or within a reasonable distance since it is so costly to bring power to your parcel. On that note, two of the folks running for the open positions on the Arizona Corporation Commission, Gary Pierce and Brenda Burns, have stated they will work to re-instate the "1000 Foot Free Zone" that was taken away in 2007. There is pressure (I admit to being part of that pressure) to re-instating this as a catalyst toward more development in the area. I have been showing parcels to prospective Buyers in Whispering Ranch and it is obvious that parcel values would be positively impacted should this benefit be re-instated.

Sales Activity . . .

The only transactions in the past month or so were not reported in the local MLS. Almost all of these were properties being foreclosed by banks or going back to private lenders through deeds in lieu of foreclosure. There were a couple of private sales, but they weren't reported to MLS. These transactions were at price levels lower than most of the property listings. There is some activity by folks looking to buy at bargain basement prices, and there are a few parcels out there at low prices, but you you should be realistic in your expectations and understand you won't get a Rolex at a Timex price. A better parcel is going to cost more. That's all there is to it. Early in my real estate career, one of my mentors taught me "the best deals are those where everyone walks away from the table saying 'I didn't get everything I wanted, but it was a fair deal'." If it's a "killing" you'll probably wind up spending all the money you saved in litigation after the fact. And I've seen a few of those happen and it's a real mess. So, do the right thing and be fair with everyone and you'll do OK. That applies to Buyers, Sellers and Agents as well.

Other Items of Interest . . .

There are two properties with power and mobile homes on them that are in the process of going back to the Lender. One is on Peakview just west of Carl Stockton's place (the manufactured home with the white picket fence on 5 acres) and the other one is up on the south side Dixileta between 306th and 307th Avenue. I have done all the tax and real estate research, called the Lenders, the attorneys handling the transactions, and still can't get any answers. Bank of America told me they would call or e-mail me when they decided to put the property on the market - no information will be available to anyone until they put up a sign. This is a prime example of "Clerks Mentality". As long as there are plenty of files sitting on Lenders desks they will get their paychecks on Friday. There's no incentive for them to get these properties sold. So they don't. They fear that if these properties sell they won't get a paycheck. And as long as our system subsidizes the banking industry, this won't change.

I'm continuing to get e-mails from thankful owners who decided to take advantage of the Agricultural Exemption by entering into grazing leases. Every one of them are seeing dramatic tax savings. There are a few who had gone through the process and were not approved, but if you are one of the parcel owners in this situation, contact Mark Lee at B&J Cattle and you will probably find he is already working on those issues. If not, poke him a little and he'll get moving.

Bureaucracy on the Move . . .

In assembling information from various sources, it now appears that Whispering Ranch was never reviewed and accepted as a "legal" subdivision by the County Board of Supervisors. Maybe this is why there has never been any cooperation from the various County agencies for the lack of services in the area. It also has an impact on those property owners who own six or more parcels in the area . . . they might find themselves exempt from the Subdivision Public Report requirements if this is found to be the case. I haven't yet addressed the issue with the County Recorder or Board of Supervisors or the Department of Real Estate, but they all will have to be involved in a final determination of this issue. And maybe the State of Arizona should look into how the County allowed this to happen. Horizon Development and Whispering Ranch was a huge land scam in the 1970's, and it now appears that this scam went deeper into the bureaucracy than anyone thought. Somewhere along the line, someone skipped a few important steps in getting this subdivision approved.

What's Next . . .

I'm hoping that the cooler weather will help get more folks out into this are looking around. Hopefully the economy will start to looks a little brighter and we will see more sales activity. I am going to continue to see what I can do to kickstart interest in the area. Eventually, something will work.


September 10, 2010

It's been a hot summer, but that's normal for the Arizona desert every year. And with so little interest in the market it didn't make sense to spend the day in August for our normal "Open Lot" weekend, so we skipped the event. In July, there was only one person who stopped by, and it was an owner who hadn't seen their parcel in 10 years or so, and wanted me to find it and take them to it. I found the property and took some pictures of them in front of one of their cactus - a big Saguaro - and they left smiling. Steve Moore (my Coldwell Banker partner/co-hort and regular Open Lot attendee) and I spent the better part of the afternoon waving at passing vehicles and discussing various strategies of how to be successful in Real Estate with no one else stopping to interrupt the conversations. Just so you know, we didn't have any revelations . . it all boils down to "just keep doing the basics, work hard, and be honest".

Sales Activity . . .

The last transaction I had in Whispering Ranch was in August and was a 5 acre parcel way up near the north end of 307th Avenue where it borders on the BLM land. The property was on the market for $24,900 and I had a Buyer interested at $15,000, so I wrote it up and sent it in. With this huge a difference in asking price and offering price, I didn't hold out much hope. But to my surprise, the Seller took the offer, and we closed the deal about three weeks later. I had a couple of my listings drop their prices hoping to get some interest and there have been a few calls, but until the economy turns back into the "positive" direction, I don't see much hope for sales at reasonable prices. There will be some rock bottom sales, but probably very few selling in the foreseeable future.

The properties that include improvements - electricity, houses, barns, horse stalls, wells, etc., - have had a few lookers, but the same bargain basement approach is holding true. One interested prospect tried to get a Seller to drop their price by about one-half ! ! Needless to say, this was a pretty short conversation.

I received an e-mail from one of the owners who went through the process of entering into a grazing lease for his parcel and requesting the agricultural exemption from the County. His 2010 taxes were $478.60. He just got his 2011 tax bill. It's for $4.60 . . . that's right . . . $4.60 !! That's a lot better than other folks who are paying $400 or $500 a year for their taxes. So there are a few ideas to keep your expenses to a minimum until this crummy market turns around.

Bureaucracy on the Move . . .

Having not heard anything back from our elected officials at the Arizona Corporation Commission on the reinstatement of the "1000 Foot Free Zone" that was taken away in 2007, I nosed around and was advised that "They have conducted stakeholder meetings and are considering next steps". If anyone has any idea what that might mean, please drop me a note and let me know.

I am disheartened that our elected officials are going through so much money and time trying to find the answer to our current economic woes. I did an "on the air" interview a few weeks ago for one of the local radio stations, and was asked what would turn this whole mess around. All I said was "Jobs". Until the average consumer starts seeing some stability and growth in their own life, we will only have a minimum amount of growth in the economy. Everything I see that the government is proposing is geared toward regulations and oversight, not toward doing anything that will allow small business (what our economy is built upon) to go out and hire people.

A lot of what is happening in our current economy is due to the government borrowing money from taxpayers and pumping it into government programs. If they were to stop printing more money and pumping it into these programs, I hate to think what the economy would do. The end result is debt that will be unsustainable without a growing economy. If private enterprise operated with the same hubris that infects our government we'd all still be living in caves. Those in government are living well on the backs of taxpayers and there's not much we can do about it. We did, after all, let the current group politicians get into office, so it's really our fault. So, shame on us.


August 14, 2010

It was hot, we were tired, business was slow, so we decided to call this one off.




July 10, 2010

With a couple of family vacation commitments I had to fulfill, it was not in the cards for me to hold our monthly "Open Lot" in Whispering Ranch in June. A one-week stay up in the cool climate in the Lake Tahoe area with one of my Granddaughters was too good to pass up as the summer heat began to plant its feet firmly in the Arizona desert. It was a nice change, but there's no place like home. So we are back at it !

Sales Activity . . .

With no recent perceivable change in the economy I didn't expect to see any significant change in activity in the Whispering Ranch market - or the overall Real Estate market in the Phoenix area. Wall Street took a tumble backwards and we are now back under the 10,000 mark again, the housing market reports indicate that now the tax credits are drying up sales are drying up too, and despite all of the government stimulus efforts, the economy is not "stimulated". The banks are allowing folks to short sell homes, but they are then going to the Federal Government for the funds they lost, while at the same time suing the a lot of the homeowners for the deficiencies . . in essence, trying to collect the shortage twice. This is also becoming problematic for Owners who bought land parcels when the market was hot and financed their parcels. Many of these properties are now worth less than the amount owed and properties are going back to the Lenders. So, as taxpayers, we are subsidizing the banks that will no doubt make it more difficult to qualify for a loan in the future - for everyone.

While I was on vacation I received a call from an agent I have worked with for the past few years on the electrical power issues, zoning issues and roadway improvement plans. He had a Seller who just wanted to liquidate a parcel - basically to just walk away with $5,000. So I put the word out to some Buyers I know. This week the deal closed. $6,400 for a five-acre parcel in Whispering Ranch. This is the lowest sale price transaction I have handled in Whispering Ranch in seven years. Until there is more consumer confidence, the job market stabilizes and/or improves and the economy overall shows signs of improvement things will remain sluggish or possibly get worse. All we can do is work hard, live within our means and economize as best we can until we see that the times are changing.

Bureaucracy on the Move . . .

One of the Owners in Whispering Ranch is in the process of gathering petition signatures to present to Maricopa County Department of Transportation to demonstrate that there are enough residents in this area to warrant a study on the feasibility of a bridge across the Hassayampa River at Patton Road. For years, when there is significant rainfall in the area, the Hassayampa River floods and the County closes Patton Road for a few days or longer. With more folks living in the area, the County needs to be given notice that the residents want something done. If you want to add your name to the petition, call Enrico D'Eugenio at 480-784-7010 and he'll tell you what to do. Or, you can go to the Whispering Ranch web site, click on the paragraph header for "Electrification and Roadway Improvements", and scroll to the bottom of the page. You'll see more information there.

The Arizona Corporation Commission has been holding hearings for the past few months toward the goal of re-instating the "1000 Foot Free Zone" that was taken away in 2007. If this benefit is re-instated, it will go a long way toward making properties in the County more valuable since it will be more economical to bring power to a rural home site. This will help development throughout the rural areas as the economy regains strength. Arizona Public Service was the moving force behind removing this consumer benefit and has been pretty much at the wheel of this States power policy for years. They are the 800-pound gorilla in the room, with plenty of money and political influence to get their own way. While doing some reading on vacation I came to the revelation that those who control energy also control the economy. But I was also pleased to see the Corporation Commission voted to exclude small solar power generating entities from the wide array of government requirements. Maybe this will also help area development in the future. All the members of the Arizona Corporation Commission deserve to be applauded for their work toward helping Arizona's citizens in their quest for a level playing field against the power monopolies.

What's Next . . .

I have based my plans for the future of Whispering Ranch on the recovery of the economy. If you go back and review my newsletters for the past few years you will notice that there is optimism about our creativity and resiliency tempered with cynicism toward government helping in these efforts. I feel that the area has great potential for a number of reasons. Those who have the ability to endure this tough market will reap the benefits in the future. So just hang on as long as you can, and if I can help you, let me know.


May 8, 2010

Business News . . .

Earlier this month, a couple of the national homebuilders announced increased activity on new home sales and an optimistic outlook for the short term. Stock ratings for the companies rose, and there seemed to be an accompanying surge in confidence about the housing market . . . everywhere but in Florida, Nevada and Arizona. That's to be expected . . . we were one of the biggest "Boom" areas and as follows in the normal economic cycle, we are now one of the biggest "Bust" areas. Just to make sure I'm not missing out on market movement in the area, I started checking with some of the builders who are in the process of getting entitlements from the Cities and Counties (preliminary approvals for planning of roadways, electrical service, sewer and water issues, etc.) to see what their current position might be with the planned developments. Some of the larger firms are moving ahead, but at a slower pace, awaiting the word from above that the time is at hand to put the wheels in motion and start pushing dirt on these developments. I don't think we will see any of these developments starting this year, but Pulte/Del Webb is still having pretty strong sales numbers in Sun City Festival, about four or five miles south east of Whispering Ranch. This property targets retiree's since they tend to have more disposable income. And the numbers bear out their success. Their plans to open newer areas within the subdivision are progressing, albeit more slowly than originally planned. Those developers who are getting as much done as they can ahead of time by moving forward with entitlements will have about a two-year jump on those who are waiting for the market to change before they start anything. Fear not . . . I'm watching for any significant activity on these developments or in the area in general.

Sales Activity . . .

We're just closing escrow on the lot that was sold at $15K. Nothing else of any significance to report. The interest we saw at our earlier "Open Lot" is still in the works and the prospective Buyers are doing their research and will be making a decision soon - hopefully ! ! I am still adding a few properties to my property listings in the local Multiple Listing Service, but I'm also marketing additional properties as "Pocket Listings" through my mailers, Maps and on the Whispering Ranch web site. But there has been minimal interest lately. As of this writing, there are 64 properties on the market in Whispering Ranch - different sizes, different prices, and different areas. You will notice that there are an equal number of properties on the market priced under $50K, as there are over $50K. That's the first time we've seen that in a long time.

Bureaucracy on the Move . . .

Reports are that the County has been in touch with most of the folks who they identified as not being "in compliance" with their codes or having the requisite permits. Some folks are working to get things resolved, and others are just ignoring them, thinking they will just go away in light of the other issues they are faced with. And I guess there is some logic behind both of these positions. The up side of this sweep was that some of the parcels that were littered with trash did get cleaned up. But nobody has moved either one of the cannibalized boat carcasses that are just sitting beside the road in a couple of spots. Maybe those are in place as rescue vehicles in the event of a monster flood in the area. Who knows?

What's Next . . .

All we can do at this point is to keep our expenses to a minimum until the market makes its move and we start seeing some sales activity. There won't be any significant activity until the economy improves and consumer confidence starts to come back. Those who are willing to wait until that time - and can afford to wait until that time - will reap the benefits. Others who sell in this market are just making a decision to cut their losses. Whichever decision you make will depend on your investment strategy. In different situations, the decision could be different, but either one is correct.

So just hang on as long as you can, and if I can help you, let me know.


April 10, 2010

Business News . . .

Our last "Open Lot" weekend in Whispering Ranch may have been an anomaly, but we did have a marked increase in folks interested in buying property in the area. I had two different prospects requesting maps, wanting to look at specific parcels and gather additional in-depth information. Steve Moore, my co-worker at Coldwell Banker and "Open Lot" backup, also had two prospects that day as well looking at properties in the area. This is the first time in about six months that we have seen this kind of interest. These folks also were in touch after these initial visits gathering additional information and making additional tours through the area. I am seeing what I perceive as some renewed interest in investment activity in area parcels. There has also been an increase in web site activity. I have a gut feeling that we're at the bottom of the market and we might be seeing the start of some interest in the area, leading toward some sales activity. But prospects nosing around and gathering information probably won't turn into sales activity right away. This increase in activity is a positive sign though we won't know if this will continue or was just a one time event.

Sales Activity . . .

Again this month there were no sales to report. I did have a property that was about to be auctioned that we put under contract just before the auction. This is a nice parcel, about ½ mile off the paved road, power on the parcel, at a bargain basement price. The buyers on this one will see a nice return on investment when the market heads back up. There were a few foreclosures of interest that should be coming on the market soon. The Hudson property was foreclosed by Bank of America a month or so ago and I'm waiting to see how they decide to price a property that has a huge house (partially completed but livable), garage, generator, well, etc., but no permits from the County. I damn near cried when the County decided to make an example out of this situation, and I'm interested to see who can pick up this "diamond in the rough" and work with the County to come into compliance. The Bank took it back for $306K and it would be worth about twice that once it's done, but it's going to take someone who knows how to schmooze the County to make this work. And they will need some $$$ to complete this 8000 square foot estate, but it's a gorgeous area with incredible potential. And then there's the Saldana property that they just walked away from. Bank took this one back at $165K and it probably will sell in the $120K range. Everything is there - a triple wide manufactured home, well, fenced yard, power (well, vandals did steal some stuff from inside) but this one is pretty near move in ready. Call if you want more information on either of these or other properties in the area. And I still have the Taylor property on the market - house, well, barn and lighted corral right on Patton Road at the entrance to Whispering Ranch . . . and this one could be a Seller Financed property with the right down payment. Call for more details.

Bureaucracy on the Move . . .

The Maricopa County Assessor's office has finally come to grips with the fact that they can't just do as they please without having to answer to taxpayers. Things appear to have been worked out in regard to the Grazing Leases and Agricultural Exemption to help owners keep their taxes to a minimum until market activity increases and property values rise. If your taxes are too high and you want to get into the group that are taking advantage of this exemption, you can get the information from the Whispering Ranch web site or call or e-mail me and I'll get the information to you.

What's Next . . .

Being a "Pay as you go" businessman, I finally pulled the trigger and replaced the sign on the east side of Whispering Ranch near the mailboxes at 299th Avenue and Patton Road. It was about time, as the old sign had been at that location for five or six years and was pretty well faded. I hope that in the next month or so I can get the other sign at 347th Avenue and Carefree Highway replaced and stocked each month with current newsletters and property listing information. I have been getting some complaints that folks are finding the 'information boxes' on these signs empty, and I promised to step up the replenishment of these boxes. With new properties coming on line, I am doing what I can to keep pace - replacing the old signs with my new Liberty Southwest Realty signs - as the new listings come on line. You'll notice that not all of my property listings are in the local Multiple Listing Service . . I have quite a few "Pocket Listings" available if you are interested. There will be more of these "Pocket Listings" as more Owners agree to let me market their properties and I will avoid flooding the market with a lot of listings in the local MLS. With a little luck, I can have more properties on the market without depressing prices due to excessive supply. Information on these properties is available through the Whispering Ranch web site. Feel free to call or e-mail me if you need more information.


March 13, 2010

Business News . . .

Market research over the past month is a little more positive than I had seen in the recent past. There are some indicators that we are finally at the bottom of the market . . . if this proves to be true, it's about time!! I expect we will spend a little more time bouncing along the bottom before we see improvement. There are property listings as low as $1,500 per acre ($15,000 for 10 acres) and upward from there. There's a parcel that was recently foreclosed that's on the market at $15,750. I handled the sale for an out of state owner in January of 2006 of this property at 306th Ave and Dixileta which we sold for $106,000. So, in this case, the value dropped by 85%. This property has power poles on it, some flood impact, on a road with easy access to the pavement (Peakview Lane), and it should be one of the first to sell when this crazy market stabilizes. But it is just another example of what happens when a "Boom" goes "Bust". I have been through a number of these Boom and Bust cycles since I started in Real Estate in the mid-70's, and the market has always come back, but it always takes time. I have about 150 or so Owners with properties that are sitting on the sidelines until the market improves. These properties will come on the market as pricing increases to meet the Owners expectations. When there is more consumer confidence in the economy, this area will thrive. The water is here, the land is available for development and demand will drive the market. Most market prognosticators indicated that 2010 will be the turning point. But they said that about 2009 as well . . . .

Sales Activity . . .

There haven't been any sales reported through the local MLS since the first of the year. I have had a few Sellers who wanted to get whatever they could for a parcel, so I put the word out and some of the Sellers did connect with a Buyer as a private sale, but I am not involved in the day-to-day details. I have been contacted by a number of Lenders (Banks and investment firms) that are involved in foreclosing properties and I have been advising them not to put the properties on the market. The last thing that's needed now is to flood the market with listings that won't sell. A few of these have gone on the market, but there are quite a few properties that are just sitting on the sidelines, waiting until the market improves.

Bureaucracy on the Move . . .

The issue of Mark Lee and B&J Cattle not being on the County's Approved Rancher List for 2011 appears to have been solved. The Assessor's Office is currently working on notifying the 200 or so Owners who were under grazing lease that their Agricultural Exemption will be honored for the 2011 tax year. Or at least, that's what they have indicated to me. If you want more information on how this mess got started or how to contact the appropriate folks at the Maricopa County Assessor's Office to make sure your property is still going to be approved for the Agricultural Exemption for the 2011 tax year, send me an e-mail and I'll get the file out to you.

What's Next . . .

The biggest reason that folks are not buying in Whispering Ranch (other than a sluggish economy) is the lack of area infrastructure . . . roads are poor, but more importantly, there is a lack of electrical service. This has been the case as long as I have been showing properties in the area. Very few people are willing to live in the area since there is no electricity. The power companies are not willing to bring service into the area until it is paid for by someone . . . and I don't know anyone who has that amount of money. Until this deficiency is overcome, I don't see Whispering Ranch reaching its full potential. The area will grow, but the growth will be hampered. In this economy, there is no possibility of any cooperation from the County, State or Federal governments, so I am looking into a number of alternatives. At our last "Open Lot" outing, we had visits from a couple of the "Off the Grid" home group. A few weeks later, I was watching a 60 Minutes segment about a free standing "Bloom Box" that generates enough energy to power a house from different fuel sources. This "Off the Grid" home group is a loose assemblage of 'outside of the box' thinkers. So far, we have a surveyor, a civil engineer, an architect, two alternative energy researchers, a builder, a couple of land owners willing to put their land into the mix as part of a joint venture, and some input from two companies who are currently building "solar farms' in Arizona to see if a modern, energy efficient off the grid home is possible. If this does materialize, not only would it rejuvenate the Whispering Ranch area, it will present opportunities for property owners throughout the sunbelt states. This idea might seem outlandish, but we need to start somewhere. Watch these newsletters or go to the web site for more information.


February 13, 2010

Business News . . .

There's really not too much sales activity to report this month from Whispering Ranch. The number of listings has dropped into the 60 or so range - down markedly from the 150 or more that we had seen on the market for the past two years - so more folks are thinking they will hold off trying to sell until prices start to head upwards. If the economic signs stay stable, we will probably continue to bounce along the bottom a little while longer, then start to see signs of small, gradual price increases. What will cause this area to boom will be announcements - when the market is ready - that some of the larger area developments are officially underway. Right now they are still doing the "prep work" until the time is right to announce they are going to start building.

Arizona Department of Real Estate and Subdivision Public Reports

When Whispering Ranch was subdivided and being sold to the public back in the late 60's an early 70's, there were a few problems. Actually, it turned out to be a huge land scam not only here in Arizona, but in New Mexico and Texas as well. The company (Horizon Development) was selling the same parcel to different individuals in different areas. How would the lady in Maryland know that her parcel was also sold to a businessman in Florida and also to a family in Oregon ? ? Well, that's what happened. The parcels were sold multiple times. But that was not the only issue. Purchasers who bought parcels were not advised that there were no paved roads, no electrical service, no public water supply, no sewer service, no streetlights or sidewalks, nor any plans for any of these items on the horizon (no pun intended). The State of Arizona realized there was a need to put some controls on development since it would have a significant impact on items such as responsibility for water availability, emergency services (Police and Fire protection, Ambulance service), groundwater pollution (septic tanks) and other items which would impact the use of land as our population and land use and density increased. To clean up this mess, legislation was passed that outline what is required to be disclosed to a prospective purchaser of property about all of these infrastructure items. It put the responsibility for a Subdivision Public Report on the shoulders of any owner of six or more parcels within a subdivision. This process is expensive ($100K estimate) and time consuming (9 months to a year) and there are quite a few owners who innocently and unknowingly fell under this regulation by purchasing multiple parcels. These owners are now restricted from selling their individual parcels until they produce this report on their property. There are some exclusions - selling properties in bulk as six or more parcels from one Seller to one Buyer in one escrow - but in most cases, you are stuck until you complete all the information required by the State of Arizona under this Statute, submit the application to the Arizona Department of Real Estate for approval, produce the report and get signatures by any prospective Buyers prior to their entering into an agreement to purchase the property.
If you, as a Seller, should be found to be in violation of this Statute, you can be fined by the State for the violation. The parcel will be put under a "freeze", meaning that you can not get a permit to drill a well, or any kind of a building permit until all of the requirements under this Statute are met. Additionally, the Purchaser of the property will have the right if they so choose to rescind the transaction, getting all their money back and returning the Title to the property back to you. This can be a real kick in the teeth. And any licensed agent involved in the transaction could lose their license. That's even more of a kick . . . and in a more tender spot. I have recently been getting e-mails from quite a few property owners who find themselves in this spot, and I 'll help you out wherever I can. I have met with the staff in the Investigations and the Subdivision offices of the Arizona Department of Real Estate on a couple of occasions to get a better handle on the specific regulations. Still, I am confused in some areas. Attorneys, Legislators, Government officials, Developers, Land Planning professionals and Educators I have met with all have widely divergent views of the requirements under this State Statute. The best advice I can give you at this point is to read the information on the issue. If you own, or have owned in the past, six or more parcels within a subdivision (plat), be VERY careful when you go to sell. If you are concerned about this as an issue involving a property you have bought or sold, please feel free to get in touch with me and I'll look into the specifics. I'll probably direct you to contact the Arizona Department of Real Estate staff to provide specific information on your situation. I'm not an attorney, so I don't have a legal opinion, but I do have a Real Estate License in Arizona that I feel is important to protect.


January 9, 2010

Business News . . .

Even though 2009 didn't live up to many of the expectations we had hoped for, there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel. Hopefully we are looking at a little more consumer confidence as the Real Estate market hits bottom, unemployment stabilizes - and possibly decreases - and a recent slow but steady rise in stock market (Wall Street) gives us hope that things may be getting back to normal. Normal means market activity like we had in 2002 and 2003, not the wild "Boom" market of 2004 through 2006. During the "Boom" years, I knew things would slow down (they always do), but I never expected the "Bust" would be as long or as deep as it has turned out to be. Our legislators have been borrowing money from all of us taxpayers to avoid a worse economic situation, but at some point, this money will need to be paid back. And this will slow our future growth unless we all become more frugal in our philosophy toward spending and investing. Someone asked me a while back how all this started and after thinking for a few minutes, I replied "We didn't listen to our Grandmother". I remember my Grandmother telling me, "Make a budget and live within your means. If you go to the store and don't have the money to buy something, don't buy it. Credit should be a last resort. Save for a rainy day. Make the things you have go as far as you can, repair before you throw away." I know that all of you have heard that before as well. But, over the years, Madison Avenue convinced us to ignore that advice and to spend more than we made, consume as much as possible, buy the latest and biggest because that's what's good for our economy. I am reminded of the phrase "What's good for GM is good for America". We now see where that economic road leads. We are wiser now, and we are creative and adaptable. And we will see our way out of this mess. Hopefully it will start to happen in 2010.

Sales Activity . . .

There was only one sale in the 4th Quarter of 2009, and that was a purchase that I negotiated for a Buyer. There were two side-by-side five acre parcels at Lone Mountain and 299th Avenue that had been foreclosed by a Bank (subsequently taken over by the FDIC) listed at $52,900. The final purchase price was $41,000 or $20,500 per parcel. These parcels are "high 'n dry" and only about 1/2 mile from power and paved roads. I have information on parcels that could be bought for $12K for five acres, and larger parcels (80 acres) for $2K per acre, but with no Buyer interest, all I can do is get the information out to my network of folks. There are properties listed for $90K as well, but currently there is no interest at this price point. Listing the property and putting it into the Local Multiple Listing Service just costs everyone time and money, and until there is Buyer interest it doesn't make sense. Unless you are willing to wait until the market comes up to you price point. If I know that you are interested in selling, I'll have your information available should I have any serious Buyer get in touch with me. And I definitely will contact you in the event there is any significant change in the market that would benefit you as a Seller.

Bureaucracy on the Move . . .

There still hasn't been any movement on the part of Maricopa County to cite or fine any properties found to be in violation of codes that have been reported to me. All I can guess is that they don't have the money or manpower at the moment to do much. There are other more pressing issues, so Whispering Ranch has been put on the back burner. For now.

What's Next . . .

Until the economy improves and Maricopa County is able to balance the current budget deficit, we can count on watching our property valuations go lower and our property taxes rise. Once the unemployment numbers begin to show improvement and jobs are being created, consumer confidence will spur more growth and the economy will improve overall. I don't expect we are going to see any significant cooperation from Maricopa County until the economy recovers, so I am renewing my efforts toward putting together a "think tank" on how to design, develop and construct a modern "off-the-grid" house in this area. I am already working to see what resources are available out there toward these goals. If nothing is happening, maybe I can make something happen. You never know.



To send me an E-Mail, click here.

Liberty Southwest Realty, LLC


Joseph D. (Joe) Liberty, Designated Broker
26742 West Ross Avenue
Buckeye, Arizona 85396
Phone: (602) 505-7675


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